What are Mental Models?

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Five Disciplines > Best Practices > What are Mental Models?

What are Mental Models?
Milko Cuadros Saavedra, Director, Bolivia, Member
I understand how to use 4 disciplines but maybe somebody can explain me the mental models... Thanks...
 

 
What are Mental Models
Reese Olger, Strategy Consultant, United States, Member
Mental models are your world views. The accumulation of your experiences and expectations of what might happen when or next...
Individually they may include your prejudices and your impressions.
Organizationally they may inform the organizational decisions or cultural practices. This also explains why organizational cultures change so slowly: since many individuals within the organization share similar viewpoints, they will generally make only small steps in the way of change. Organizationally, they may be collectively adverse to risk, as opposed to individuals who may act with less concern for the entire organization.
 

 
Mental Model
G. Satish Kumar, Member
It consists of imaginary thinking about any creation or object or model or idea and how that is useful for our environment.
 

 
What are Mental Models
RajVinder Singh Gill, United Kingdom, Member
Mental models are the way we learn to construe (Ed: interpret) the world. It has limitations in that we as individuals find it difficult to step out of the experienced world as that contains all that is familiar to us and thus offers security.
Developing new ways of thinking and construing the world demands risk taking and learning. Although this may sound easy you have to remember that the way we construct the world is quite inflexible due to having repetitive reinforcing experiences that confirm our hypothesis of the nature of the world and the events taking place.
 

 
What's Behind your Mental Models
Savino Vito, Member
For me it means your assumptions, your "true" believed theory founded on your own experience. When you do something and you are brought to explain the reasons of your handling, you have a mental model behind otherwise you can't act.
 

 
An Example of a Negative Mental Model
Trent Hosen, Trinidad and Tobago, Member
On many occasions you find workers who were once quite outstanding in their performance for one reason or the other were not recognised by their organisation. Petty office politics stifled their deserved progress. Many workers then carry the mentality that the organisation is just mere talk and in the end organisational politics will supersede everything else.
Therefore any increased effort to imporve the organisation is not forthcoming because people believe someone else with the right office connections will get the credit.
How could modern management correct this anomally which is a clear example of a negative mental model in an organization?
 

 
Drawing Out your Mental Models
Gerard Leigh, Business Consultant, United Kingdom, SIG Leader
For me it is the deeply ingrained (usually tacit) assumptions that we use to shape our decisions. They are the experiences that we gain throughout life that make us believe things work in a certain way. Mental models are difficult to change and just as difficult to see.
But they are usually seen by other people much easier then that we see them ourselves. As such a mentor can be useful to draw out your mental models.
 

 
Some Additional Comments on Mental Models
Gerard Leigh, Business Consultant, United Kingdom, SIG Leader
- It was Pfeffer (2005, p.124) who argued that “in order to get different results … companies and their people actually must begin to think differently”. He was talking specifically about mental models and how they affect the performance not only of individuals but whole organisations.
- Kofman and Senge (1993, p.19) describe mental models as the “basic constitutive structures of our personality” suggesting that they and ourselves are one and difficult if not impossible to change.
- Pfeffer (2005, p.125) offers a polarised viewpoint that changing the way we think about a situation is the most powerful and useful way to change behaviour and ultimately organisational results, and that it is possible to “uncover and change mind-sets and mental models and to do so reasonably efficiently, reliably and predictably”.
 

     
Special Interest Group Leader
Gerard Leigh
Business Consultant

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